Re: RARA-AVIS: Film Noir Style, Noir Content

From: Al Guthrie (
Date: 19 Feb 2003

I think you might be a victim of your own logic, Jim.

You wrote:

> If the term (film noir) has expanded beyond what it's meant to
> define, then it means that people are commonly
> misunderstanding the term, not that "the languange has
> expanded."

Okay, so what is it "meant to define"? Let's ask Rene.

> The term "film noir" was coined
> in 1946 (not 1960) by French critic Nino Frank after
> seeing 6 recent
> Hollywood melodramas in one week: The Maltese
> Falcon, Laura, Double
> Indemnity, Murder My Sweet & The Woman in the
> Window. By your
> definition, the first two films aren't noir.

What do you think, Jim?

>As for who coined the term film noir, and when it was
>coined, I'll bow to you there.

So if the original term was meant to define something other than what you're claiming (as you appear to accept), you are, by your own definition,
"misunderstanding the term." As to the precise meaning of the original term, James Naremore, in "More Than Night: Film Noir In Its Contexts" suggests that the French critics who first applied the term "film noir" in the mid-1940s (looks like you were wise to bow to Rene) agreed on a formulation that defined noir as, simply, "a kind of modernism in the popular cinema." That's surely vague enough to keep everybody happy. But it does, however, mean that your constraining definition is significantly
"misunderstanding the term." You've perpetrated linguistic expansion upon it.

Exeunt severally


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